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One major pain point when I travel is toilets. As a woman, it’s just not as easy to use any old toilet, or deal with when there isn’t one at all.
The struggle is real.
If you’re about to head off on an adventure, keeping these top toilet tips for female travelers in mind can help alleviate stress when you definitely don’t need it!
1. Pocket tissues.
Get in the habit of pocketing tissues and napkins at every opportunity (in cafes, restaurants, and other bathrooms).
To be caught out without extra “toilet paper” is never fun, so making it a point of always having a backup is key to avoiding this drama.
Depending on where you travel, it might be best to pack a normal roll of TP. You can add a mini roll of toilet paper to your packing list and keep that in your daypack. Or, pack an entire roll and always restock your daily supply in your purse or daypack.
To make packing easier: Simply take the cardboard from the middle of a regular roll and squish flat to save space. It’s helpful to keep your stash in a plastic bag or a Ziploc bag to avoid it getting torn to shreds or wet.
2. Download toilet finding apps.
Yep, they exist!
Don’t you just hate it when you’re exploring a new city and when nature calls you have no idea of where to head?
Apps like Toilet Finder can help guide the way! This crowdsourced toilet map gives you access to over 70,000 toilets, and it will even tell you how far it is to the nearest one.
If you’re traveling across Australia, The National Public Toilet Map website provides guidance to 16,000 public toilets across the country, so bookmark that one on your mobile.
Other apps to check out:
*Please let us know if you use these apps and how useful they are in various destinations.
3. Build up those leg muscles.
Before you even set off on your travels, building up leg muscles can help you deal with the dreaded squat toilet. I find it especially helpful for hovering over normal toilets of questionable nature.
You can also check out this blog post with detailed descriptions and tips on how to go to the toilet outdoors.
Alternatively, you can do the following…
4. Invest in a Shewee.
A Shewee is a reusable urine funnel that makes it so you can actually pee standing up! Hallelujah!
Theresa even packed one of these in her precious purse space (as discussed in The HPL Podcast, Episode 1) because they make her travels more enjoyable.
Other models include the GoGirl or disposable P-mates.
Female Urine Funnels: P-Mates Help You Pee Standing Up
P-Mates are a form of disposable female urination device. These unfold into a funnel form that can then be used to capture and funnel your urine away from the body while in a standing position. The benefits include the following:
- You don’t have to hover over nasty toilet seats.
- You don’t have to squat in bushes, which can lead to many messy mishaps.
- You don’t have to remove too much clothing to use it.
- You can make the most of otherwise stressful conditions like waiting in line when your bladder is about to burst.
- P-Mates are disposable, so you don’t have to worry about storage and cleaning after use.
- They’re small, so you can actually fold them down and fit into your pocket. Little space in your backpack is needed for storage.
- They’re cheap. You won’t have to spend a lot of money to have the benefits of P-Mates on your travels.
- Check out P-Mates on Amazon.
5. Hoard spare change.
Even though it’s always tempting to rid yourself of spare change by buying a snack or a pack of gum, stop. Keep that change!
Especially in Europe and Southeast Asia, many public toilets require payment to enter. And if they aren’t automated, there might be a toilet minder person that you need to tip (or pay to get toilet paper).
6. Pack a scarf.
Sometimes you will encounter toilet situations where there is no toilet at all, and in cases like this, a scarf or a sarong can be used as a privacy shield. You can also substitute a Turkish towel for this purpose.
Tie it off on some bushes for extra coverage, make-shift a door in places where doors in bathrooms are optional, or have your wonderful boyfriend hold it up behind you so your entire bum isn’t showing to your tour group sitting in the bus.
When you’re traveling in Mongolia and the only toilet looks like this…
It’s a very handy tip indeed.
7. Carry sanitizer or wet wipes.
Because when there are no toilets, or when toilets aren’t well-kept, there often isn’t a sink or soap for miles around.
Besides your hands, you can also use sanitizer or wet wipes to wipe down a questionable toilet seat before using.
8. Don’t look a gift toilet in the mouth.
Take a bathroom break when a toilet shows itself… because you don’t know when you’ll get to one next.
9. Secure belongings before using a squatty potty.
All loose items should be removed or secured before getting near one, especially phones, money, and sunglasses.
We had a friend whose sunglasses dropped to the bottom of a 6-foot pit-style squat toilet in Mongolia to be lost forever. Luckily it wasn’t his phone!
10. Learn to ask for a toilet.
As the title of this post suggests, learn the phrase for “Where is the toilet?” in that country’s language.
If you can’t speak it well, save a photo on your phone or have a flashcard that you can show people.
It will save you from awkward sign language in a time of urgency.
And one last bonus tip: Mentally prepare.
I really appreciate my privacy when it comes to using a toilet, but the fact is, other cultures just don’t see it the same. When you travel, you may encounter awkward toilet situations, so my best tip is to mentally prepare for the experience.
From communal trough toilets, to squat toilets, to dealing with toilets that are less than cared for, it can be a rough road for the ladies.
Hopefully, some of these tips can help!
This ties into number 8 but can depend on what kind of traveling you’re doing (great for city sightseeing, bad for hiking) — Always use the toilet when you visit a museum. In my experience, museum toilets are the cleanest public toilets, and they are usually free.
Yes, they are! Good addition, Kate 🙂
Australian range of bamboo undies (and bras) have built in absorbency just in case you are caught short. Modibodi.com.au
I’ll second the museum toilets!
My personal favorite in the “Shewee-family” is the pStyle. I have quite a collection of many different styles of urine funnels, and after tying them at home, I always ended up squatting outdoors because I was scared of, um, wet accidents… Not anymore – the pStyle is extremely simple, easy to use, no removable parts that threaten to come loose when you use it, it’s perfect (and no, they don’t pay me for writing this…).
Also, hilarious (but useful) reading material: “How to shit in the woods” 🙂
Good to know about the pStyle!
I heartily second endorsement of the P-Style, forthebreaons youve mentioned, having tried every other FUD on the market 👍
#1 Tip: Learn what the bathroom symbols look like in the country you are visiting.
When in a country that speaks English, or at least uses the Latin alphabet, it’s not that hard to figure out which door is which (M, W, WC, etc). But when a different alphabet is used, it gets a little confusing. I had to quickly learn which Cyrillic letters are used.
I always packed toilet paper. For a week or so before I left I would change out a roll before it was empty, usually 1/3-1/2 left. Take out the cardboard tube and it packs small enough to hide in small spaces. Even the first bathroom you find in the airport may be less than stocked. Or, as I discovered in Ukraine, the TP may be less than desirable to use. I became everyone’s best friend when they discovered what I had.
Personally, I would take a squatty potty over a seatless/broken/icky toilet. But then I’m a country girl through and through. Peeing out in the wild is second nature. You don’t drive all the way back up to the house when nature calls while you’re doing field work.
If you have to wear your backpack while using a squatty, try not to have it balanced too far backwards. Falling backwards is not a good thing. If you go forwards, you can at least use your hands to catch yourself.
YES! I remember my first experience with the Cyrillic W/M symbols at a toilet stop in the middle of the night (on a very long bus ride in Ukraine). I WAS SO CONFUSED, and no one on my bus spoke English. I eventually just had to choose one; I chose right! haha definitely learned my lesson.
Similar to point 10, when my colleague went to China he took a picture of a toilet on his phone, so if his language skills failed him he could show the picture to make himself understood. I thought that was a great idea!
Yes, also a great idea!
good for cities: department stores (or other big shopping store-I’ve used grocery stores as well). Sometimes still have to pay in Europe, but usually cleaner, air conditioned, and more often free than other public toilets. And for the remote areas- if you see a big rock or tree with no one around, use it. Don’t wait till you need it.
Don’t wait till you need it is my motto!
I always carry cough drops (Halls, Ricolla) and one of the reasons is if I’m going to use a bathroom that is at all possibly questionable, no matter where I am, I pop one in my mouth before I go in. The menthol or mint going up my sinuses help keep the smells at bay, the sweet/mint taste keeps me from gagging at the really awful places.
Menthol or eucalyptus cough drops also help anywhere the smells or fumes bother you, i.e., exhaust fumes.
Oh yeah good idea! I’ve been in some vile toilets before!
Thank you so much for saying this, it’s a brilliant suggestion! I don’t think I’d ever have thought of that 🙂 I’m pretty happy using whatever toilet I can*, but the smell is the one thing that puts me off any toilet, even if it is clean. I’ll definitely be using this tip on my next trip!
*I actually love nature wees, they’re so much nicer than questionable toilets, and a huge bonus is that you usually get a nice view to go with it 😉
Brilliant suggestion. On a recent trip to China I used Vicks just under my nose but I will try your suggestion. The comment on being “mentally prepared” is so true. Many on our trip (including me) were rather undone by the facilities. Amazon has a few good products too.
Since most places in Europe you will find yourself paying for a toilet, I will usually find a coffee shop or café, grab a quick espresso at the stand up bar, and then both my husband and I will use the toilets. About the same price, and a pleasant ”rest stop”.
I love Clariza’s cough drop suggestion! Being gifted with a strong sense of smell can sometimes be a bother.
Lastly, when picking clothing for the trip, pay attention to pockets. The most important rule is to always carry tissues, but having pockets makes this easy. Alternatively, for leggings or skirts without pockets, a spare money belt with tissues, tiny hand sanitizer or wet wipes and tampons works well too.
Similar to the mental preparation tip, practice before you go–if you know you are likely to encounter a squatty and you’ve never used one before, figure out how to manage your clothes before you get there! I spent far too long at my first squatty figuring out how not to pee on my underwear (city girl).
Jane M says
In cities, I always find the poshest hotel I can and use their toilet. Why, because in the really nice hotels, no one will question you, no matter what you look like as long as you act like you belong there. I always have a story prepared (I’m meeting my uncle, Mr. Smith, who is staying here) but I have never ever had to use it.
In places where there are no fancy hotels, my number one tip is Don’t Look Down!
When in cities, fast food restaurants! Usually busy so it won’t be noticeable if you just pop in to pee and 90% free!
I have a funny toilet story. About 30 years ago, my husband and I traveled on a bus tour throughout Italy before moving onto Sicily to visit his family. An important fact to know is that I was about four months pregnant so I managed to rack up quite a few potty stops including a squatty in Pisa. We were in Venice one evening and I HAD to go but unfortunately we couldn’t find one. Hoping someone would have pity on a pregnant lady, we knocked on the door of a very nice looking apartment. When nobody answered, we quietly snuck in and I used the restroom. Many times I’ve wondered how we got away without being seen.
Haha! Amazing the door was open 😉
Hi Brooke, we love your article! Such a great idea for such a useful tips! Looking for and surviving public toilet is surely annoying part about traveling.
Here are our suggestions for Prague:
– keep change on you. It is likely that you will have to pay to “toilette grand mom” before using a public toilette
– there are not many public toilette in Prague, but you will usually find one at the main historical sights, metro and train stations and malls. (careful they are not open during the night!)
– do not through away your receipt right the way in fast food or coffee places. Sometimes there is a code on it, you will need to unlock a bathroom.
– have tissues or toilette paper on you even when you are “going” in the restaurants or bars.
– count on going for a wee wee couple times after drinking Czech beer!:)
Have fun in Prague!
Toilets in Japan seem to go from one extreme to another. From primitive floor squatties to hi-tech ones made by Toto, using a potty there is always an adventure. Speaking of Toto, don’t get carried away when you see the controls and realize its capabilities. It can warm your butt, play music to disguise “embarrassing” noises you might emit, and also serves as a bidet, I used to joke that those toilets did everything but cook dinner! Just be careful which buttons you push. You could end up with a whole body shower and flood, too!
Hahah sounds like an adventure all its own!
Ana O says
Really useful tips.
I have a question about the Shewee. Is it disposable? If it isn’t, do rinse it and put is back in your handbag?
The Shewee is reusable. I think you would rinse it and put it in a plastic bag of sorts before putting it back in your handbag. You might also carry around an extra wet wipe for time when rinsing it in the sink isn’t possible.
My shewee came in a plastic case so you can put it back in the case and rinse when you get a chance
Thanks for asking, I was scrolling down to do the same as that was my first thought about a funnel. “Yuck, put that back in my backpack?” 😉 Many nasty toilets I’ve been in have no sinks so would definitely need some were wipes.
You are so right about using one when you happen to be near one. I think I drive my boyfriend nuts but I’d rather go a little now then desperately searching in an hour because I didn’t take advantage when I could!
All very good tips that I will definitely be keeping in mind!
Oh very interesting to see this from a male perspective. I should share this with my female friends and Its true even as a male, When I see a rest room even if there is no urge, I try to go there so I don’t have to worry.
Charmin sells travel toilet paper, no inner roll, in a plastic case. Perfect for the purse or backpack. I always take a couple on every trip. FYI, Madagascar a lot like Mongolia, empty dpaces, no public toilets. Spent a lot of time in the bushes there.
In Morrocco, had to use a squating toilet with no lights (there were a couple of candles dotted around, but coming from the very hot and sunny outdoors, I could see virtually nothing). It was… fun (?)
In France (where I come from), I find public toilets are almost always unbearably dirty, so the ‘go to a hotel’ tip a good one.
I’ve experienced the obligatory ‘coffee or drink stop’ almost everywhere I’ve travelled, but have sometimes lucked out, where the place simply didn’t have toilets! (argghhh!)
Keep a roll of TP in your luggage, unspooling enough for the day to carry in a baggie in your pocket or purse. Be aware if TP is allowed in the toilet – many places it’s not; look for the receptacle “If it wasn’t in your body, it doesn’t go in the potty” Outside, don’t litter – if not possible to burn or bury it, take your used TP with you. Carry a ziplock baggie, covered with duct tape to hide the sight of your poopy paper, or a dark dog poo bag.
This is some great tips. After travelling China last year I have mastered the squat lol. I think I’ve also got holding my breath, peeing then running out as fast as I can down to a art aswell. I always carry toilet paper and wet wipes with me now
Hahah, yeah it’s like you really have to get the “process” down to an art. No time for fixing belts or tucking in shirts- just straight business!
I was in Turkey and had to find a toilet. It cost me 1 Euro and I got 2 squares of toilet paper. I learned to carry some in my purse.
I have IBS and this can be triggered by anxiety. Thus being in a place with no toilet can cause me anxiety because I think, “oh no! I can’t go if I need to!” And of course, then I need to. We travel in the states a lot and I bought a travel toliet for my car. Thankfully I haven’t had to use it. When we were in Northern Cali, up in the redwoods, we got ourselves onto a logging road through the mountains for 4 hours. Finally, I caved and had to pee outside and I’ll be honest, I’d prefer that over portapotties or most of the rest stop/gas station bathrooms any day!
When I was in San Fransicsco a few years back in China Town I almost had an accident in my pants because I couldn’t find a bathroom. Thankfully we got to a place in Little Italy that I snuck into to use the bathroom. It was horrifying. It makes traveling with IBS just awful.
I’m eager to conquer my anxiety and travel overseas, so I very much appreciated this post. I’m interested in getting that “go girl” tool, but worried about getting infections. Has anyone ever cleaned it in the bathroom sink if there is one? Is it difficult to use? I’d hate to pee on my leg…..
I have a Travelon cross body bag I use for rest stops and traveling… I bring a small roll of camping toilet paper, wipes, soap sheets, a camping portable towel, toilet seat covers, some “poopari” drops or spray if I want, and since I am a woman who has surprise periods I like to carry emergency undies and a plastic ziploc bag for soiled ones just in case! A lot of rest stops I’ve seen don’t have (or run out of) the essentials you may expect so I pack with that in mind!
Mac girl says
This is very informative!!! Surprised no one has mentioned disposable toilet seat covers. I just bought some from eBay for an upcoming trip. Only concern is that they come in packs of 10 and I am frequent toilet goer so I might need to order more.
However I am going on Safari this year so they’ll be no good for that. Might need to invest in a shewee for that.
I didnt know there are apps for toilets:) gotta check it out!
Yes to all of it! I *especially* agree with the idea of mentally preparing. Alternate lifestyle and customs are something you encou ter while traveling- and bathroom/toilet customs are different everywhere. I’ve traveled with both men and women who have had… let’s just say “less than cool” reactions to different potty styles. Its someyhing you need to suck up, accept, and prep for before going to a new place! Thabks for sharing!!
Great ideas here! Esp like to cough drop idea. I visited Vietnam with a friend last year and had to use some horrific smelling bathrooms. Has anyone tried Gottatinkle? Uses plastic sandwich bags (or their biodegradable ones). Plus, since the device never touches your body–there is nothing to clean and you can share it with your daughters. Since we manage to “splash” with some of the other urine funnels, gottatinkle has become our favorite.
I live in China, a land of mostly squat toilets, and I have to say, the adjustment was much easier than I thought. I bought a Gogirl before I left home but have never used it! There are sometimes smells, but a very small price for seeing a beautiful country!
Great tips! Especially the cough drops and making sure to secure stuff for your pockets. I’m a plea in air painter and am used to peeing “al fresco”. My tip is carrying panti liners. I use them as TP – more absorbent than tissues, and you can wrap it back up in the plastic wrapping for disposal when possible.
You are sure to find toilets without toilet paper if travel in Asia. Make sure to carry your own.
Disposable Toilet Seat Covers is another option. You hardly find this in most Asian countries. Surprisingly, you find this in every mall in Sri Lanka.
I have travelled around Australia and there are lots of pit toilets! I now have a kit with anti bacterial wipes to clean the seat, a small spray in case it smells in there, , toilet roll, wet wipes, panty liners and hand gel. Also black bags for waste. It has a handle to hang somewhere and means I could use most toilets.
Good idea! Sounds like you got most things covered 🙂
I found that a small travel sized pack of baby wipes, wet ones, and a few travel packs of facial tissue were essentials in Sri Lanka. Most people use the sprayer to clean themselves and I often found damp toilet paper, if any at all. My hubby even appreciated the wet wipes for hand cleaning. Baby wipes are really nice in hot and humid weather to help keep you feeling fresh as a woman.
Anita Jackson says
One of the discoveries I found in Korea was that you needed to collect your toilet paper before going into the stall. There is one big roll on the wall and you take what you need before you go in. Luckily I too travel with lots of tissues for those surprise moments.
Many years ago when in Japan, lunaI quickly learned two important tips for using a squattie:
I had very long hair that I wore down. Absolutely carry a clip or hair tie so your hair doesn’t brush the floor – which is often wet.
Before you lower your pants and squat, roll up your pant legs so they don’t drag on the floor because, as I said, it’s often wet!
This sort of goes along with 8 (rest stops) but is more related to awkward toilet situations. The problem that I have is not wanting to use public restrooms. I’m not a germophobe, but I’m not comfortable for some reason. The longest I’ve held off was about a 5 hour car trip, and then headed straight for the motel room bathroom for a much needed pee.
Needing a bm while traveling is even worse because of the stigma associated with solid waste (smells, sounds, etc.). Fortunately I don’t have digestive issues, but it can get quite uncomfortable holding it in. I don’t like to make a fuss so I’ll usually just grin and bear it.
One awkward story is when I arrived at a friends house after a long drive. I had to pee and bm so badly. However she has just one bathroom, and her eldest son had just gone in for a shower. Argh! I barely made it to the toilet once her son was done, and what a relief! Now that was an awkward situation, having to hold it in in front of my friend and her younger son and trying not to show how desperate I was for a toilet.
Thank you so much for this post. Travelling with 2 young teen girls, bathrooms are a forgotten subject but actually they are a necessary discussion point. So sharing this with them was not only necessary but very comical.
I think all parent/teen doundarirs are now broken!
One tip re tp and seat overs – in many (most?) parts of the world the plumbing/sewage system is ancient and can’t handle great wads of paper. Hence the adjacent waste basket. Don’t be ‘that’ Tourist.
Lisa Pentz says
The best tip I got before traveling to Europe this summer was that there are usually no toilet seats on the toilets. Once I heard this, I invested in toilet seat covers (from Amazon) and carried them with me everywhere we went. They were worth every single penny I spent. I won’t even sit on a seat in a place I am familiar with and my squatting abilities are pretty good but you can never be too sure. I now have enough toilet seat covers to last me through my next 42 trips to Europe.
Oooh Lisa you are very right! There are often no toilet seats. Great tip about the seat covers!
No matter what country you are in, There is a chance the stall you find does not have toilet paper. I always carry some tissues with me and depending on how many days we travel I will try to take enough tissue packs to last.
I usually suffer with anxiety when traveling which make my IBS issues worse. Having to find a bathroom to pee is bad enough but when you’re desperate because you have to go #2 it’s worse. I’ve been on tour buses that the guide will say it 15 minutes until we reach our destination when in reality it became more an hour, and it’s embarrassing to go to front of the bus to ask if we can find a bathroom.
I have been so desperate that actually have been looking for some type disposalable system. I found one called “Biffy Bag”. I wonder if anyone had tried one before.
Shawn Rohan says
Great subject. As most people have said, it’s only something you think about when you’re in the middle of a desperate situation. The cough drops are a great idea. I’d like to suggest packing a roll of doggie poo bags. I put them in my toilet bag along with toilet paper, hand sanitizer, wet wipes and girl stuff. If I end up in a toilet where you’re supposed to carry out paper products, I put the items into the already opened doggie bag, tie it off and drop it into the closest waste container. The bags are usually colored (not see through) and biodegradable.
In Langkawi, I had to go to the toilet and there were only really wet squat toilets with no toilet paper. I didn’t know how to to use the toilet or the hose? I had no tissues. I was trying not get my pants wet as well. I ended up standing on one leg, taking my shoe off and using my sock after a wee. Then I put my shoe on without the sock and I don’t remember where I put the sock.
Oh no, hahaha. Liz that’s hilarious although I’m sure it was super stressful at the time!
I used to go offroad in our Jeep with groups that were mostly men. I have a GoGirl that made it much easier. Flexible and folds up fairly small. Would bring my water bottle to rinse the funnel off. Put it into a ziplock bag. Really nice not having to pull pants way down.
My grandma told me that when you are traveling you should never pass up an opportunity to sit down or to use the restroom. I don’t know about the sitting, because I’m usually sick of that when I travel, but the bathroom advice is key. When my kids were little, they often claimed not to need the restroom when one was available. I had them sit on the potty and sing the alphabet song. If they hadn’t peed by the end of the song, then they could hop down. They generally were able to empty the tank, and we bought ourselves some extra time before the next “I gotta go now!” moment.
Such a good idea about the child + alphabet song! Love it- thanks for sharing 🙂
If I’m camping when on holiday or at a festival I take an empty Vanish washing powder canister (they have a good sized opening and good screw top lids) and use this in my tent at night. Just empty and rinse every morning. To take on holiday fill it with socks etc and on your last morning throw it in the recycling bin. This is especially useful in countries where you really don’t want to be walking around at night looking for the long drop!!!
I live in the UK so do not know if you can buy Vanish in other countries. .
Great solutions for peeing, but I’d like to know more about how to poop discreetly. I am a camper, and will lean against a tree for pooping or peeing, but I don’t really like leaving solid waste near my campsite. Is there a better way?
Awkward topic, but necessary. Thank you for these great tips!